New ensemble takes aim at Nashville’s contemporary music scene
Sara Estes March 21, 2015
Though Nashville is known as Music City, the contemporary music scene here has felt like a parched desert compared to the lush, verdant landscape of indie rock, pop and country. While the Nashville Symphony, ALIAS and others have included performances of new music in their programming over the years, no organization in Nashville has been fully dedicated to presenting explorative, avant-garde programming geared for listeners of all ages — until now.
Kelly Corcoran, director of the Nashville Symphony Chorus, is taking the city’s contemporary music scene to the next level with an ambitious new ensemble, Intersection. Presenting challenging new music in nontraditional settings, Intersection aims to redefine Nashville’s historically conservative approach to classical music.
“We’re taking the way people might think of music, and shaking it up. Not only for the audience but for the musicians, too,” said Corcoran. “We want to carve a place for contemporary music in this city.”
Corcoran has been with the Nashville Symphony for eight seasons, serving the first seven as associate conductor.
Her vision for Intersection is rooted in breaking down barriers and educating young listeners. She hopes to demystify and informalize the public’s experience of the performing arts. “We will always be in a nontraditional venue,” she said. “Never the Schermerhorn — so the audience can have a different encounter.”
Half of all Intersection programs will be geared toward family and children, as Corcoran believes early exposure can impact how children will go on to think about and experience music as adults.
“Why not start cultivating the art of listening now?” she said.
She also prioritizes artistic collaboration, and pointed out that all Intersection performances — there will be four a year — will include partnerships with other art disciplines or organizations.
Intersection’s debut performance, “Transfiguration,” is Thursday night at The Platform, a 10,000-square-foot venue on Second Avenue. The immersive 90-minute program brings together an ensemble of 19 professional musicians from Nashville, California, New York, Florida and North Carolina. The performance will include a collaboration with contemporary dance company New Dialect and a video art installation curated by Zeitgeist Gallery.
The program features five diverse compositions: Arvo Pärt’s “Frates,” which was featured in the 2007 film “There Will Be Blood,” Jonathan Harvey’s “Valley of Aosta,” inspired by a J.M.W. Turner painting, Sean Shephard’s “Metamorphosis,” Ned Rorem’s “Eleven Studies for Eleven Players” and Sophia Gubaidulina’s “Concordanza.”
“Transfiguration” will feature two video projections accompanying Harvey’s “Valley of Aosta” and Shepherd’s “Metamorphosis.” Artists Matthew Kinney and Kaylen Kennedy collaborated to design images that respond to the compositions in real time, transitioning, developing and unfolding in accordance with the music.
For Gubaidulina’s “Concordanza,” New Dialect founder and Juilliard grad Banning Bouldin choreographed a new work, “Murmuration,” featuring 14 dancers. Before she started working on the choreography, Bouldin listened to the composition repeatedly, and began to hear the music as a metaphor for movement in nature.
“The piece has outbursts, some abrasive, some melodic. It reminds me of what we see in the behavior of swarms of insects, schools of fish, or flocks of birds,” said Bouldin. “When thousands of starlings come together in a murmuration, you get the sense, as you watch them move, that there’s one mind operating these thousands of components. Yet when you see 10 birds on a wire or three in a birdbath, their movements are so erratic and flitting.” In the choreography, she explores the discord of smaller partnerships and how they can come together to form a harmonious mass.
Bouldin shares Corcoran’s dedication to pushing the envelope of Nashville’s contemporary performing arts. After 13 years living in New York, Paris and Stockholm, and performing around the world, Bouldin returned to Nashville, her hometown, to develop her own training program.
“There was no better place to do it than right here,” she said. Locally, she sensed a major interest and need for contemporary dance. New Dialect had its inaugural performance at OZ Arts in 2014, drawing more than 600 hundred people.
For Bouldin, the collaboration with Intersection has been transformative. “I’m venturing into uncharted personal territory choreographically,” Bouldin said. “And that’s what we live for: the chance to keep stretching our parameters so we can contribute to the evolution of the art form, as opposed to just preserving what it has been.”
At $25, Intersection’s ticket price is deliberately low, in hopes of attracting a diverse audience from all areas of Nashville.
“What this is about for us” said Bouldin, “is bringing high-quality, professional-caliber, inspiring, experiential arts to everyone in our city.”
If you go
What: Intersection’s debut performance, “Transfiguration,” in collaboration with New Dialect and Zeitgeist Gallery
Where: The Platform, 1500 Second Ave. S.